March 24, 2017

Best of the States

Under radar, Florida spent about $250M on private lawyers, fees

AP Tallahassee reporter Gary Fineout started noticing how often Florida under Republican Gov. Rick Scott was losing court cases over its policies and was forced to pay opposing attorney fees. He decided to start a tally. But those fees would be just the tip of a quarter-billion-dollar iceberg. The money the state spent on private law firms to defend itself dwarfed that initial amount.

Getting that overall tally was the hard part. When Gary asked what was spent on outside legal counsel during Scott’s half-dozen years in office, the state attorney general told him: “We do not have that information."

So, Gary set out to search through the documents himself, revealing the true cost to taxpayers. For bringing to light a huge chunk of opaque spending and hold state leaders to account, Gary wins this week’s Best of the States.

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May 01, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

What went wrong: AP examines how COVID-19 swept Italy’s Lombardy region

A scathing letter sent in early April by doctors in Italy’s Lombardy region provided the first tangible inkling that something had gone terribly wrong in its fight against the coronavirus.

With Lombardy accounting for roughly half of Italy’s 27,000 deaths, chief Rome correspondent Nicole Winfield set out to document how the virus overwhelmed a medical system long considered one of Europe’s best.

Over the next three weeks, Winfield methodically collected details, conducted interviews, pored over government reports and briefings, and referenced AP’s vast reporting on the pandemic to craft the first explanatory account of the missteps and failures that allowed the virus to become so pervasive in northern Italy.

Winfield’s story quickly became one of the most-read on the AP News and was picked up by outlets globally.

For crafting a thorough, compelling and heartbreaking account of how COVID-19 got a pervasive, deadly grip on Lombardy, Winfield wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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July 10, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation details hollowed-out US public health departments

While it is widely understood that U.S. public health departments have suffered budget cuts over the years, a collaborative AP/Kaiser Health News team used data and deep reporting to show exactly how expansive those cuts have been.

The investigation by AP’s Michelle Smith, Meghan Hoyer and Mike Householder, teamed with KHN’s Lauren Weber, Laura Ungar, Hannah Recht and Anna Maria Barry-Jester, drew on data from disparate sources and interviews with more than 150 people to reveal a system starved of money and staff for years, and facing more cuts amid the worst health crisis in a century. 

The team’s all-formats package drew kudos and high-profile reaction from health officials, to the halls of Congress, to editorial pages.

For an ambitious story that laid bare the state of America’s public health system, the joint AP/KHN team of Smith, Hoyer, Householder, Weber, Ungar, Recht and Barry-Jester shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 13, 2017

Best of the States

AP reporting prompts bill forcing Nevada agencies to reveal federal reviews

Statehouse reporters know to follow the money, that to hold government accountable we need to know where taxpayer money goes and how it is used. Nevada temporary legislative reporter Alison Noon did just that recently and helped bring about a promised change in policy that will make the workings of the state capital more transparent.

Noon first began reporting a story that rural health clinics offering family planning services to low-income women had slashed services and were turning women away for lack of funding after federal grant money dried up.

In the course of her reporting, Noon learned the program’s federal funding had been cut after a scathing federal review that showed widespread mismanagement and poor medical practices at the rural clinics. That highly critical federal report went unmentioned when the program’s administrator sought additional state funds during the legislative session.

Noon set out to learn why. She found Nevada did not require state administrators to share the results of such federal reviews with anyone – not the governor, not department heads, not state auditors. Her reporting led to a recently proposed requirement that such reviews be shared with Nevada auditors.

For her unmatched APNewsBreak, Noon wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 22, 2020

Best of the States

Inside the Navajo Nation as it endures the coronavirus outbreak

If the Navajo Nation were its own state, it would have the second highest per-capita rate of coronavirus cases in the United States, trailing only New York. 

AP’s Felicia Fonseca, one of the preeminent reporters covering Native issues for any news organization, and photographer Carolyn Kaster reported from the heart of the crisis. Donning full protective gear and a healthy measure of courage, they documented families, doctors and volunteers, while national writer Tim Sullivan added further reporting and masterful writing assistance from afar. 

The story and photos capture the vast beauty of the land and the intimate grief of the people, including one family that has lost four members to the virus. The package played heavily in the Southwest U.S. and was among AP’s most downloaded and viewed for several days.

For a revealing look at a Native community in the midst of the health crisis, Fonseca, Kaster and Sullivan share this week’s Best of the States honors.

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May 15, 2020

Best of the States

Bearing witness as COVID-19 ravages rural Georgia counties

Telling the stories of people who have suffered devastating losses is difficult at the best of times, but with this story, focused on one predominantly black rural county in southwestern Georgia where the pandemic is hitting hardest among some of America’s most exposed, the all-formats team of Claire Galofaro, Brynn Anderson and Angie Wang also had to cope with the challenges of reporting in a pandemic. 

The journalists knew they would have to take cautious risks to tell this important story, while also dealing with the emotional and ethical issues of potentially putting the people they spoke to in danger. They spent much of their time sorting out how to best protect their sources, while also getting a story worthy of the risk those sources were taking to tell it.

That story, intimately told and richly illustrated, connected with readers, some of whom said it made the pandemic finally feel real. Many said it inspired them to act, and others wrote to compliment the journalism. 

For a significant, poignant package that reveals in personal terms the already deep inequities exploited by the pandemic, Galofaro, Anderson and Wang are recognized with this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 24, 2020

Best of the States

The cost of Trump environmental rollbacks: Health woes hit minority communities hardest

With African American and Hispanic communities in the Houston region already suffering higher rates of asthma and other diseases than the nation at large, AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer decided to focus on the area for a story on ordinary Americans living through the Trump administration’s public health and environmental rollbacks. 

The administration was cutting back on rules limiting and monitoring harmful industrial pollutants, slashing enforcement and weakening an industrial-disaster rule.

Knickmeyer, a Washington-based environmental issues reporter, spent months searching out Houston residents, telling their stories along with deep reporting on the regulatory actions and their consequences.

Former EPA Director Gina McCarthy was among many retweeting the story, calling it a “must read” article.

For a rich, insightful look at the consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks on vulnerable communities, Knickmeyer wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 15, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Blockbuster AP scoop reveals shelving of CDC guidelines on safe reopening

For weeks, critics had complained that the Trump administration was putting political concerns ahead of scientific recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

A blockbuster AP scoop amplified those complaints: Reporters Jason Dearen and Mike Stobbe worked sources to reveal that President Donald Trump’s administration shelved the CDC’s guidelines containing step-by-step advice to authorities on how and when to reopen businesses and other public places during the pandemic.

The story dominated news media and was by far the best-performing story on AP News for the week. And in a follow-up exclusive, Dearen reported on documents showing the decision to withhold came from the highest levels of the White House, and that the Trump administration ordered key parts of the CDC guidelines fast-tracked for approval after the AP’s story appeared.

For a major scoop that resonated among customers and readers and finally brought to light the scientists’ suppressed guidelines for how the country should reopen, Dearen and Stobbe win AP’s Best of The Week award.

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Sept. 23, 2016

Best of the States

Deep-sea volcano a hotspot for mysterious life

When the World Conservation Congress came to Honolulu, Correspondent Caleb Jones did what any good AP reporter would. He sized up potential news and obtained releases early, including ones about the Great Elephant Census in Africa and a gorilla subspecies being classified as critically endangered.

But, while planning for an interview with Conservation International CEO Peter Seligman, Jones learned something that would take AP’s coverage to another level – and take him to the bottom of the sea – while other reporters sat through speeches and presentations. Scientists with the conservation group and the University of Hawaii were about to embark on the first-ever submarine exploration of two ancient undersea volcanoes 3,000 feet beneath the Pacific and 100 miles off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.

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May 29, 2020

Best of the States

AP takes a rare behind-the-scenes look into the complex world of contact tracing

With contact tracing in the spotlight as one of the keys to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, journalists across the AP have sought access to the investigators, only to be rebuffed for privacy concerns. But Utah-based correspondent Brady McCombs convinced a county health department that he and photographer Rick Bowmer could show the world how contact tracing is conducted, while protecting private details. 

Once they were in the door, the curtain rolled back. The pair spent parts of five days shadowing investigators as they talked, commiserated and cajoled people to comply with tracing – something simply unseen in other coverage or descriptions of contact tracing. 

And in a major break, McCombs used social media to identify one of the subjects of tracing, getting exclusive all-formats access to tell the story of a family on the other end of a tracer’s call.

For a timely and revealing package on a vital element of the pandemic response, McCombs and Bowmer share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 03, 2016

Best of the States

Lack of choice in health insurance markets a growing problem

The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is one of the most divisive political issues in America. So when word began circulating last summer of potential double-digit premium hikes, Washington health care reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar knew he'd have a major story on his hands. With those price hikes would come renewed fears insurers would leave the program.

Looking ahead to the autumn release of the data, Alonso-Zaldivar and data journalism Meghan Hoyer starting laying the groundwork for AP to offer something distinctive, that no other news organization would have.

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May 01, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: All-formats access to a lifesaving New York emergency room

With coronavirus infection and death rates mounting, hospitals in the New York City area imposed strict guidelines allowing only a small handful of media outlets limited access. After weeks of reaching out to hospitals, St. Joseph’s in Yonkers agreed to give the AP access to its emergency room and screening tent. 

But only one journalist would be allowed into the hospital. Versatile New York staff photographer John Minchillo was an easy choice.

Once inside in full protective gear, Minchillo connected with the hospital staff, who also granted access to the intensive care unit. He made the most of the next four hours, working in all formats to capture the mundane and the extreme, including the dramatic moments when a COVID-19 patient in cardiac arrest was saved. Turned around virtually overnight, Minchillo’s all-formats package was heavily played by major media outlets.

For his powerful, comprehensive all-formats storytelling that takes us inside medical workers’ daily fight save lives against the coronavirus, John Minchillo wins AP’s Best of States Award.

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July 09, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Reporter’s instincts, deep preparation break stunning news of Cosby case reversal and prison release

Comedian Bill Cosby had been in a Pennsylvania prison for more than two years last December when the state’s high court took on his appeal of his sexual assault conviction.

As seven months went by without a decision, Philadelphia-based legal affairs reporter Maryclaire Dale — who had been instrumental in breaking the original Cosby story — thought there might be something newsy in the works. Her instincts led to deep preparation that put AP ahead on one of the biggest news stories of the summer, one that almost no one but Dale had anticipated.

When the court tweeted out its opinion Wednesday, AP’s news alert moved within minutes, followed less than one minute later with a short breaking news story that Cosby's conviction was overturned, and that he would be released from prison. Both alerts beat all the competition; a full story moved less than two minutes later. Dale and colleagues followed up with full coverage throughout the day, with Cosby later appearing before cameras at his home, as the original news story drew heavy engagement online and maintained the top spot in Google’s news carousel.

For sharp anticipation and flawless execution that put AP ahead on a story that dominated the news cycle, Dale earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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April 03, 2020

Best of the States

Surviving the coronavirus upheaval may depend on your paycheck – a tale of 2 families

California's Bay Area is full of extremes: poverty and wealth; homelessness and opulence; high-end industry and the service workers who support it. Those extremes matter when it comes to weathering the shutdown in response to the coronavirus.

 Jocelyn Gecker and Olga Rodriguez set out to show how that divide plays out, telling the stories of Rebecca Biernat, a San Francisco attorney, and Sonia Bautista, a hotel worker, and their families. With photographer Jeff Chiu they developed an intimate portrait of the two families – what they have in common and the differences in how they are adjusting to the shutdown.

 For doggedly seeking out the right subjects, overcoming distancing restrictions and expertly weaving together two tales to tell a deeper story about inequality amid turmoil, Gecker, Rodriguez and Chiu earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 06, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

An AP blockbuster: Algeria forces 13,000 migrants into the desert, some to their deaths

“Here in the desert, Algeria has abandoned more than 13,000 people in the past 14 months, including pregnant women and children, stranding them without food or water and forcing them to walk, sometimes at gunpoint, under temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit).”

With that chilling declaration, the AP opened a new chapter in the ongoing, global saga of migrant suffering. Reporter Lori Hinnant and visual journalists Jerome Delay and Bram Janssen revealed the Algerian government’s complicity in a horror that had gone unreported – and had led to the deaths of an unknown number of migrants. Their exclusive story is the Beat of the Week.

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April 17, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

All-formats team chronicles a pivotal 24 hours in ‘The Fight for New York’

On April 6 – the day when the COVID-19 death toll in New York City exceeded the toll of the Sept. 11 attacks – a team of AP journalists fanned out to tell the stories of average New Yorkers navigating the pandemic. 

From the bodega owner whose remaining customers are often funeral home workers, to a paramedic worried about the way the onslaught of cases was eating away at him and other first responders, the stories provided a vivid account of a city bent, but not broken, by the virus. “The Fight for New York” was a testament to the AP at its finest: smart planning and collaboration leading to 11 impactful text and video stories, more than two dozen photos and nine social edits, all delivered to customers with remarkable speed.

The package immediately resonated with readers, viewers and customers, winning strong play on the websites of most major news organizations. 

For extraordinary teamwork, planning and execution, the team of journalists behind “The Fight for New York” wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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May 31, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Mind-blowing exclusive: Security troops on US nuclear base took LSD

After five years exposing the struggles of the U.S. Air Force’s nuclear missile corps – security lapses, leadership and training failures, morale problems – Bob Burns uncovered an exclusive that was mind-blowing in every sense of the word: Airmen guarding a base in Wyoming had bought, distributed and used LSD.

Burns, a Washington-based national security writer, knew from his previous reporting on the missile corps that illegal drug use was a recurring problem and that the Air Force was reluctant to discuss it.

When the court martial proceedings began in 2016 he started filing FOIA requests for the transcripts and supporting legal documents. It took the Air Force well over a year to finish responding to Burns’ requests, but by January 2018 he had the bulk of the records he needed to piece together the story, including trial transcripts and related documents, with descriptions of drug experiences of airmen, ranging from panic to euphoria.

For his extraordinary revelation that some of the nation’s most deadly weapons were in the hands of hallucinating airmen, Burns takes this week's Beat of the Week award.

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July 24, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Global package launches new multiformat AP series: ‘Small Business Struggles’

Small businesses – critical to the health of the global economy – are clearly being hit hard by the pandemic. Over the next six months to a year, Associated Press journalists around the world will chronicle their fight for survival, in an ambitious series called “Small Business Struggles.”

The first piece, anchored by national writer Adam Geller with a rich digital presentation by video editor Samantha Shotzbarger, got the project off to an incredible start. With contributions in all formats from more than two dozen staffers worldwide, the story brought readers into the agonizing decisions business owners face as they try to stay afloat. The package led the AP News site and was used by digital, print and video customers around the world. 

For pulling together the opening salvo in this immersive and significant global project, Geller and Shotzbarger share AP’s Best of the Week.

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Oct. 13, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive visuals, reporting distinguish Vegas shooting coverage

It was just one of the many mysteries surrounding the Las Vegas concert shooting: How did the gunman, perched up on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort, fire off as many as 90 rounds onto thousands of concert-goers in just 10 seconds, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds?

Reporters Sadie Gurman and Mike Balsamo found the answer. Through sourcework, they learned that Stephen Paddock was able to carry out his assault in moments because he had used two “bump stocks,” devices that allow a semi-automatic rifle to repeatedly fire like a machine gun.

The scoop was part of an impressive week of coverage by staff in the Las Vegas bureau and across the AP that also included photographer John Locher’s dramatic images of police screaming for people to take cover as the gunman sprayed the crowd with bullets.

For their work in bringing critical details and images of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Gurman, Balsamo and Locher win this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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March 24, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP analysis of GOP health care plan finds older people in Trump country hit hardest

The Republican health care bill landed with projections that millions of people would lose their insurance coverage. Among the key questions: Who would be hurt most by the new plan?

AP data journalist Meghan Hoyer, based in Washington, set out to explore the impact of the GOP plan by gathering and analyzing data from several government and private entities. She found that Americans 55 and older who buy private health insurance will pay more than they do under Obamacare _and many of those who'd be hit hardest live in counties nationwide that gave President Donald Trump his strongest support.

Using those findings, reporters Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, searched for people — both Trump backers and Hillary Clinton supporters — to discuss how the plan would affect their finances. The work of these three reporters, blending careful data crunching and compelling shoe-leather reporting, earns the Beat of the Week.

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